This release is available in French.
A breakthrough by an international team of researchers in Canada, France, the UK and Denmark has uncovered a new gene that could lead to better treatment of type 2 diabetes, as well as a better understanding of how this widespread disease develops.
Unlike most of the genes that have been shown to cause diabetes, the new gene, called Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 (IRS1), doesn't affect how insulin is created in the pancreas, but rather, how the body responds to insulin already in the bloodstream, say the researchers, whose work will be published in Nature Genetics Sept. 6.
"Most of the genes that we've identified as diabetes risk genes to date reduce the function of the pancreas, specifically of beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin," explained Dr. Robert Sladek of McGill University and the Gnome Qubec Innovation Centre in Montreal, a corresponding author of the paper. "IRS1 has to do with the function of the other tissues in the body. Rather than reduce production of insulin, this gene reduces the effect of insulin in muscles, liver and fat, a process called insulin resistance."
Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, enables the body's cells to absorb glucose from food and turn it into energy. Different types of diabetes are caused by the body's inability to produce sufficient insulin, inability to use its own insulin properly, or a combination of both factors.
"IRS1 is the first inside the cell that gets activated by insulin," Sladek continued. "It basically tells the rest of the cell, 'hey, insulin is here, start taking in glucose from the blood!' If IRS1 doesn't work, the whole process is disrupted."
The research was conducted by an international team including Sladek, Dr. Constantin Polychronakos of McGill's Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Philippe Froguel o
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